The Merkava Tank Planning Directorate has set up a team to study the principles of the tank of the future. The defense establishment has yet to make a decision or even establish a direction for the systematic development of a new tank, as production of the Merkava Mark IV tanks nears completion. The team has been requested to present ideas for an armored fighting vehicle (AFV) that would provide massive mobile firepower on the future battlefield.
The team includes IDF officers and members of the defense ministry. Basic questions are being raised: Should the future tank be lighter than the 70 ton Merkava? Can the thick layers of armor be dispensed with, because of new active defense systems capable of intercepting antitank missiles in flight? Will the tank of the future be operated by a four-man crew, or perhaps less? Will it require a cannon or will an advanced recoilless firing system, launched from the turret or rear of the tank, suffice? The team is also considering the future AFV's horsepower capabilities and track systems (heavy or light) versus the option of putting wheels on the chasis.
"Changes in the battlefield are beyond our imaginations and issues concerning the tank of the future are only in their initial stage; at this point [the discussions] are almost abstract in nature," admits a defense source. "We're trying to envision the direction of developments on the future battlefield, and then we'll formulate suitable ideas. At any rate, the tank of the future is still very far off and if sweeping changes are introduced then it’s doubtful that the armored vehicle will still be called a 'tank'."